Alabama State Parks will conduct a prescribed burn of two longleaf pine tree zones at Oak Mountain State Park on Thursday, March 14, 2013. The prescribed burns will take place in two locations within the park: approximately 168 acres near the upper fishing lakes, and approximately 130 acres near the campground. The burn was originally scheduled for February, but the weather prevented it from taking place.
Every effort will be made to ensure proper smoke management and safety of the surrounding areas during the burn period. The Alabama Forestry Commission and the City of Pelham Fire Department have been notified and will be on standby if needed.
In an effort to enhance the stands of longleaf pine at Oak Mountain, Alabama State Parks plans to control understory plant species through the use of regular prescribed burns. A management plan for the removal of some mature oak trees within these longleaf zones is also being drafted in 2013 and will be used in tandem with the controlled burns.
“An ongoing seven-year study of longleaf pine ecosystems conducted by Dr. Scot Duncan of Birmingham-Southern College recommends controlled burns to help keep these areas open to sunlight and to stimulate the growth of beneficial understory plants,” said Forrest Bailey, Natural Resources Chief for Alabama State Parks. “The State Parks Division feels that if no action is taken and hardwood competition is allowed to grow unchecked, both longleaf locations will be lost and a valuable, historic plant community will become more degraded.”
The longleaf management program at Oak Mountain is a partnership between Alabama State Parks and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Alabama. TNC will provide trained personnel, ATV equipment, and logistics expertise to assist with the controlled burns.
“Alabama’s state parks contain a wealth of unique and important biodiversity as well as provide important places for people to enjoy the great outdoors,” said Keith Tassin, TNC Terrestrial Conservation Director. “Periodic fire shaped Alabama’s ecosystems, and is critical to their restoration and maintenance. This is the first step in restoring the mountain longleaf pine ecosystem that once covered much of the park.”
Historically, longleaf pine covered millions of acres across several southeastern states including current sections of Oak Mountain State Park. Longleaf pine ecosystems thrived when controlled by naturally occurring fires. However, more than 50 years of fire suppression has degraded the health of some of these ecosystems.
Regular prescribed burns of fire-tolerant longleaf pine forests helps to eliminate competition from understory vegetation such as maple, gum, hickory and oak. Prescribed burns also help to fuel the growth of wildlife food sources such as native grasses, wildflowers and forbs.
The Nature Conservancy is a conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters. Founded as a chapter of the international organization in 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alabama has safeguarded more than 156,000 acres across Alabama that protect hundreds of rare and imperiled species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. For more information about prescribed burning, contact Keith Tassin, Terrestrial Conservation Director, at (205) 613-2901 or visit www.nature.org/fire. To watch a video on the benefits of prescribed fire, click www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3wgTTq0a8s&feature=player_embedded.